April 30, 2010
Saigon’s Fall, 35 Years Later
DEPENDING on which side you were on,
On April 21, 1975, I was 11 and living in
Growing up in
We considered the VC little more than a nightmare, a rumor, a bogeyman for scaring children. Once, in
Before the government fell, my father arranged for me and my brother to flee the country with a Chinese family. He sent his secretary along to take care of us. This secretary was 22, Chinese, with a very short temper, her face round and puffy. Sister Ha, as I called her, would later become my stepmother.
Before I left, my father gave me $2,000, saying, “Two thousand bucks should last you a year.” American bills, I noticed, were less colorful than Vietnamese ones, though longer and crisper. After sewing the money into the hem of my blue shorts, made of rayon and extremely hot, my grandmother advised, “Whatever you do, don’t take these shorts off.”
Before boarding the plane, I stayed at an American compound for four days. On the evening of April 27, I got on a C-130 to fly to
Linh Dinh is the author of the forthcoming novel “Love Like Hate.”
April 30, 2010
Guilt and Death, North and South
AT noon on April 30, 1975, when news that the liberation forces had captured
I was so thrilled to head home and enjoy my afternoon off. National flags were flying everywhere. Young people cheered and chanted, “
But then the image of a friend who had been in the North Vietnamese special forces appeared in my mind. He had been among 1,000 soldiers who had gone out to fight together, and one of only four who returned. Their mission had been to ambush dangerous Saigonese agents — and sometimes Americans.
Soon after his return, he and I sat together on a pile of straw, and he told me a war story. He and his group had happened upon some Americans, who started shooting. My friend and his comrades had been ordered to avoid capture, even at the cost of their lives, so they tried to escape. The Americans were drunk, but chased after them. When one American was about to jump on one of our soldiers, my friend stabbed the man from behind and he fell, mortally wounded.
My friend turned him over on the ground and saw his young and handsome face. “Mama,” the man said before dying — the same word so many of our own soldiers uttered before they died. My friend’s heart tightened and, from then on, he said, he could never forget the American’s cry.
No one could understand why my friend later decided to return to battle. I’m told that he was killed somewhere in the jungle. Only years afterward did I come to believe that after hearing the plea of the dying American, he had felt guilty about living. But why did I think of him that day, at that moment, among the cheers?
Phan Thanh Hao is a poet and translator.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs